The American GI Forum (AGIF) of the U.S. is a patriotic national veteran family organization founded on March 26, 1948 in Corpus Christi, Texas by a group of WWII Hispanic Veterans, led by Dr. Hector Perez Garcia. Congress chartered the AGIF in 1998 on the 50th anniversary of the organization.
Over a half-million Hispanics served in World War II, Korea and Vietnam. They served their country with honor and distinction and achieved the highest number of Congressional Medial of Honor than any other ethnic minority.
More than Two Hundred and Fifty Thousand lost their lives or were wounded in battle in WWII and Korea. Many more served in Vietnam and many of our young men continued to serve in Bosnia, Panama, Granada, Desert Storm, and now our young women joined our men in Afghanistan and Iraq. Hispanics in America hold a distinguished and proud War record.
Following WWII, in spite of the protected legislation that had been passed by our government guaranteeing all veterans certain rights and privileges, the returning Mexican-American Veterans were being subjected to certain discriminatory practices in the areas of Education, Employment, Health care and Housing.
Dr. Garcia’s dynamic leadership incited these Americans to action and they were successful in correcting some discriminatory practices in the Corpus Christi area.
As a result Chapters were formed and it was only a matter of time before the organization spread into New Mexico, where another leader, Vicente T. Ximenez joined the organization and set up the mechanics of the organization. Both he and Dr. Garcia gained National prominence for the American GI Forum.
Dr. Garcia was appointed by the late President John F. Kennedy to the delegation, which formulated a treaty with the West Indies. He was frequently consulted by high government officials in matters dealing with the Hispanic population. He was then appointed as ambassador to the United Nations, the highest position to ever held by a Mexican-American to that point. He was the first U.S. Citizen to give a speech in Spanish in the history of the United Nations.
He received the Medal of Freedom from President Ronald Reagan, the highest honor that a civilian can receive from his country. He was also honored by Spain and Mexico with their highest awards for civilians. Dr. Hector P. Garcia remained active in the American GI Forum until his death in 1996.
FELIX LONGORIA AFFAIR
The controversy surrounding the burial of Felix Longoria provided a successful case for the American G. I. Forum in fighting discrimination with political pressure.
In 1948 the remains of Private Felix Longoria of Three Rivers, Texas, were recovered from the Philippines, where he had been killed on a volunteer mission during the last days of World War II. His body was shipped home for burial at the Three Rivers cemetery, where a fence separated the “Mexican” section.
The funeral home would not allow the use of the chapel because of alleged disturbances at previous Mexican-American services and “the whites would not like it.” Longoria’s widow and her sister discussed the refusal with Dr. Garcia, and he, in turn, contacted the funeral director and received the same refusal and rationale.
On January 11, 1949, Garcia called a meeting of the Corpus Christi Forum, which he had organized as the first G. I. Forum chapter in March 1948; he also sent many telegrams and letters to Texas congressmen.
Senator Lyndon B. Johnson responded immediately with support which resulted with the burial being held in Washington D.C. The funeral took place on February 16, 1949, at the Arlington National Cemetery. In attendance were the Longoria family, Senator and Lady Bird Johnson and a Military VIP representing President Truman.
After the funeral, the Texas House of Representatives authorized a five-member committee to investigate the Longoria incident. The committee held open hearings at the Three Rivers Chamber of Commerce and, after recriminations and exculpatory arguments, concluded that there had been no discrimination on the part of the funeral director and that he had acted in anger but had apologized.
Four of the committeemen signed the report. Frank Oltorf, the fifth member, stated that the funeral director’s words “appear to be discriminatory.” Another member withdrew his name from the majority report and filed his own account, which stated that the actions of the director were on “the fine line of discrimination.”
The report was never filed. The Felix Longoria Affair provided Mexican Americans an example to unify and expand their struggle for equality in the coming decades.
Felix Longoria Affair from: Carl Allsup, The American GI Forum: Origins and Evolution (University of Texas Center for Mexican American Studies Monograph 6, Austin, 1982).
At war or at peace at home and afar great progress is being made by Hispanics in many fields. Let us continue this pattern of success, taking action in areas that need improvement: You can become a member in your area, or you can become a member-at-large if there isn’t a chapter near your area.
American GI Forum of the US
635 W. Corona Ave., Ste. 114
Pueblo, CO 81004
Join the American GI Forum
Go to www.agifus.com and under membership tab:
- Print and Mail the Application to Us
- Join at a Local Chapter
- Join as Life Member
In 1998, the United States Congress approved the charter of The American GI Forum (AGIF) as a Family Veterans’ Organization. You may become a member if you served in the military and want to help our veterans and their families. If you are not a veteran you may join our unique group of non-veterans, ready to assist those that served with the privileges and benefits earned by serving as a non-veteran.
The American GI Forum is proud to have non-vets as members. Our Charter allows 25 percent non-veterans as members. Our backgrounds may be different, but we are joined by a common cause, we who served and continue to help our young men and women returning from war-zones and those who were not able to serve but are willing to share their time helping our veterans and their families with the same devotion that comes from serving our country and by sharing experiences that are uniquely ours with others.
As more veterans return home from the War-zones, they will need medical help now or later. With our programs and members we are prepared to:
- Render assistance, with our NVOP, in preparing VA claims and getting accurate information concerning financial benefits.
- Provide job training, placement and jobs through our NVOP VETS and Weatherization programs.
- Use NVOP staff to assist in obtaining full medical, educational, and insurance benefits from the Department of Veterans Affairs, the State of Texas Workforce Commission and the Texas Veterans Land Board.
- Assist homeless veterans with shelter, transitional housing and job placement while securing their benefits and provide help to the homeless with the annual American GI Forum National Veterans Outreach Stand-Down.
- Provide representation for all veterans in Congress through our friends and chapter in Washington, D.C. and in Texas through our State Office in Austin.
- We advocate and fight for legislation that protects the benefits of all veterans and their families. For assistance visit or call:
National Veterans Outreach Program, Inc.
611 N. Flores, Suite 200
San Antonio, Texas 78205
(210) 223 – 4088 Office
(210) 223 – 4970 Fax
Membership Eligibility & Requirements
If you are on active duty today, serving honorably, anywhere in the world, or have served on active duty honorably for 181 consecutive days, you can become a member of The American GI Forum.
We represent veterans just like you, nearly 1.5 million strong, who care about America, veterans and their families and our nation’s youth. The American GI Forum is a powerful voice in Washington. Dedicated to preserving the rights we’ve all earned - And were promised - By service to our nation in uniform.
We invite you to join us now. Membership brings an impressive array of benefits. The American GI Forum is always there for you and your family - In Washington and nearly 400 local Chapters throughout America and Puerto Rico. Just like you, we’re “Still Serving America!”
Additional Information on Membership can be obtained by contacting our National Office in Pueblo, CO.
- Served in a military branch for at least 181 consecutive days.
- Non-veterans may join if recommended by a veteran and are of good character, willing to work for veterans' issues and are over 18 years of age.
- Women may join the Women of the American GI Forum Chapters. Must be at least 18 years of age.
- Young boys and girls between the ages of 12 to 18 years of age may join the Youth Chapters.
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